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Volume 20 No. 42
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Plugged In: Mark Shuken

Mark Shuken is senior vice president and general manager of TWC Sports Regional Networks, which will launch two RSNs in Los Angeles on Oct. 1 with programming from the NBA Lakers and MLS Galaxy. Shuken, who previously ran Liberty Media’s RSNs, talks about the current market for media rights, particularly in Southern California.

My children are 22 and 20. They are heavily engaged in media and content and heavily engaged in social media. They are secondarily focused on linear television. They are still sports fans and they are still focused on the media that we accumulate. They are not separate and distinct evaluations anymore.

On whether sports rights are nearing a cost ceiling:
Everybody has to be more judicious than they are about where the right value proposition lies. As distribution companies look at investing in content, they’re making sure that they place the right bets on what is core to their business. Fortunately, for the regional sports networks in Los Angeles, it’s become clear that those are driving shareholder value and distributors’ value and driving fan value.

Can Los Angeles support five RSNs? That’s going to be up to the distributors and their fans. They’re going to have to make those decisions. Every distributor has to determine where the value proposition lies and where they have to make tough choices. It’s a question not so much of is there space for a certain number of regional sports networks, but in the overall economics of pay television: Where do you invest and what’s primary to that customer?

On cord cutting: Live regional sports seems to be the primary driver that supports the pay television and media landscape. Our networks are going to be totally focused on that live experience.

The sports media issue he’s following most closely: In recent years, we’ve talked about social media being a big deal. Now, what we’re seeing in all the media business is how accurate that is. Look at what we’re putting together. There are 18 million social media fans of the Lakers. There were tens of thousands of fans reaching out to us in September in advance of the launch that isn’t happening for another month. Being able to respond to what fans and communities of fans want, and the ability to adapt to that more quickly than ever before and learn from them more quickly than ever before is critical. It’s probably our biggest opportunity and the one we have to keep our ears and eyes open to.